Writer’s choice

1. Paper 1 focuses on your interpretation of the meaning of the poem below

2. The paper has a short introduction paragraph, which includes
•a lead-in line to get the paper started [don’t start the first line of the paper with the thesis]; this is just a general statement of the topic of the paper,
•the title of the poem [in quotation marks],
•the name of the poet,
•the thesis [your opinion about what the poem means or its major theme or idea].

3. The thesis makes one arguable point about the theme (point, meaning, your interpretation) of the poem. Your thesis is arguable; that is, it takes a stand that other people who read the poem might disagree with but one which you support. The thesis is your interpretation of a theme, point, or meaning of the poem.

4. Include at least two body paragraphs. In the body paragraphs, you will want to
•thoroughly explain all your ideas,
•make every sentence clear and understandable to the reader
•not use any contractions,
•not use the words you, your, yours,
•use the literary present tense of verbs to talk about your poem. For example, “the man stands in the house remembering”, not “stood”; or “the poem is about a man who has lost his family,” not “was about a man.”

5. Back up your ideas in your body paragraphs with quotations from the poem. Put quotation marks around the quotations. After the quotation, put the line number in parenthesis. Be sure to lead into the quotation before giving the quotation. After the quotation tell what the quotation suggests to you or your interpretation of the quotation. Link this discussion to the topic sentence of the paragraph and to the thesis of the paper.

6. Since this is a paper about a poem, be sure to use the forward slash correctly between lines of the poem that you quote (See 32f in Little, Brown Handbook for details.). When you quote, quote accurately. Use ellipsis to indicate any omissions you have made from the original quotation (See 32d.). Use square brackets to enclose any change you make in the original, including ellipsis (See 32e.). If your quotation from the poem is long (more than 4 lines of the poem), display the quotation as a long quotation (See 49c for details).

7. End the paper with a short conclusion paragraph that echoes or mirrors the thesis in some way and that wraps up the entire paper

8.Give your paper a title that is NOT the title of the poem. Type the title, at the top and centered, on the first page of the paper itself.

9. Avoid using first person (“I” or “me” or “my”) and second person (“you” or “your” or “yours) pronouns. These pronouns make the paper less formal than a paper for college should be.

10. Avoid using contractions such as “doesn’t” or “isn’t” or “can’t”. Instead write out the full words “does not” or “is not” or “can not.” Using contractions make the paper less formal than a paper for college should be.

11. Underline the thesis in your introduction paragraph. Your thesis should be the last sentence of the introduction paragraph.

The Poem is below.


(Chrystal Meeker, 1980)

(Constant defiance in the spirit of personal conviction

cleft* a schism* between my mother and sister.

They clawed their womanhoods out of each other

by handfuls of hair and heart.

Battle-weary and scarred as they were, 5

a sameness spurred them on toward empathy.)

Glass and metal clattered in the sink as weary arms lifted

a baby to one shoulder, a dishtowel to the other.

Momma stood vacant-eyed and hollow-cheeked by hot suds

waiting for the end of some inaudible incantation* of Homer* 10

When asked, she said she would grab something later

and it made Kayla afraid to ask what she’d done

if Momma wouldn’t even sit with her to eat.

When all the scampering children were bundled up

and sent down to the parking lot of the Masonic Lodge 15

to pass the football, futile task that it was

in the ominous Oklahoma wind,

Momma put me down in my bassinet

and began to lick the crumbs from my sister’s plate.

When Kayla came through the door of the kitchen 20

(the fugitive football on the cracking counter),

she stared at Momma, not understanding why

she stuck her finger at the sticky syrup left in ridges and hollows

yet to be explored by her tongue.

Startled and dismayed by the animalistic actions 25

of one so usually a lady,

Kayla moaned the universal sound for confusion and horror.

When presence felt was presence known,

Momma set her down across the table and told her

that she was sorry that Kayla was witness to so heavy an act. 30

When my sister finally asked her why she acted like she was starving,

Momma quietly admitted that she hadn’t had anything for five days

but what was left over from her kids’ plates.

Momma wasn’t the only one that gulped greedily that day.

My sister sucked the marrow from the bones of guilt 35

when she realized that she had cleaned her plate for a week

She carried the secret for thirty years until it ate her up inside,

churned in her stomach like tapeworms ringed with razors,

until she told me one afternoon when I had a fight with Momma.

Wiping tears of terrible history-grief, I went out to the backyard 40

where she stood stoic*, watering flowers,

and hugged my Momma for all that I’d done wrong.


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